Before we discussed Braid in class, I had actually read about the atom bomb interpretation, and I admit, I was resistant to that interpretation at first. By now, I’ve seen enough evidence (the Oppenheimer quote, the Princess exploding in the alternate ending, etc.) to begrudgingly accept that the bomb metaphor is a significant component of the game, but the metaphor still pushes my feminist buttons–not because of what the Princess represents, but rather because the Princess represents an object or idea at all.
I am admittedly drawing upon my limited personal experiences to make this observation, but this particular instance seems distinct from instances in which characters serve as analogs for historical or mythological figures (e.g. Aslan as Jesus), and from large-scale allegories for large events (e.g. District 9 and South African apartheid). In the case of Braid, a person is a metaphor for a thing. The only comparable example in my memory is The Great Gatsby. While I have not personally studied the novel in any formal context or even read the book on my own, I have heard from others that the character of Daisy represents the American Dream. Daisy is also similar to the Princess in that she is a woman. So, while I can point to multiple examples of female characters being used as metaphors for objects or abstract concepts, I have yet to remember a male character being used for similar purposes.
The reason this trend (if it is indeed a trend) is so troublesome to me is that it reinforces the position of women as objects that exist for the development of men. As the protagonist of the story and the counterpart to the scientist, Tim is given an engaging existential dilemma surrounding the destructive consequences of his actions, but the Princess is afforded no significant perspective on the situation that would enrich her as a character, apart from, “Help! The bad man is after me! Save me, big muscular hero!” (This particular aspect of the game carries its own sexist implications, but they seemed more obvious and less interesting than the metaphor component.) In order to effectively communicate the atomic bomb metaphor, the Princess’s place in the story must be kept simple and ambiguous enough that she can functionally be replaced with an object.
Again, I admit that I haven’t examined enough literature to identify this aspect of the game as representative of a larger trend, but I would be interested to know if any of you have encountered either additional examples of the trend or counterexamples (i.e. male characters that serve as metaphors for objects/ideas).